An avid outdoorsman, Finley Howard says he’d rather be fishing than giving an interview about his life.
A gentleman, offering fruit cake he had baked himself, and a cup of coffee to sit and talk, Howard, 84, of Bledsoe, began his story summing up his life in Harlan County.
“I started out about two or three hundred feet from the Harlan County line over in Leslie County,” said Howard. “It was just natural to migrate on over into Harlan County as I grew older.”
Beginning his working career as military police in the U.S. Army, serving with occupational forces in Japan just after World War II ended, he returned home and began working in the “log woods.” Eventually, Howard migrated to the coal mines, but lost one of his eyes in 1950, which ended his career as a coal miner.
“I worked 17 years at Modern Bakery running a bread wrapper mostly,” said Howard. “I tell everybody I stood 13 years in one place. After that, I opened a grocery store and called it Finley’s Market in the Bledsoe area, just up from my home. I ran the store for almost 20 years and then sold it out in 1989.”
Howard proudly said he was once a volunteer firefighter with the Bledsoe Volunteer Fire Department. He said due to health issues he was forced to quit.
“I love being outdoors,” said Howard. “I raise a garden every year, things like beans, corn, potatoes, peas, strawberries, raspberries — anything you can put in the ground. I don’t do a lot of canning, but try to preserve most of my fruit and vegetables by freezing.”
Wishing he was fishing on the day he was interviewed, Howard said, “I’d been fishing if I hadn’t had a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning and I had to make time for this interview. If there was a choice between being interviewed or fishing, fishing would have come first.”
Howard said he loves to hunt and fish, but his most favorite thing to do is gardening.
“When you get out there in the garden and see the results of what you have done it sure makes you feel good,” said Howard. “When people get older they need to stay active and do things like fishing and gardening. If you don’t you become a couch potato and you won’t last long.”
Howard said he and his late wife, Marie, raised three children. His son, Mike, is superintendent for the Harlan County School System. His son, Manuel, retired from UPS and now works for United Way. His daughter, Debbie, is a teacher at Stinnett Elementary School in Leslie County. He has five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
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